Claims price tag too high, taxpayers at risk
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 08, 2012 06:00 am
A minor amendment forced the adjournment on a public hearing for the downtown, but that didn’t stop Coun. Cam MacKay for again making the case against the downtown area redevelopment plan (DARP).
Council postponed the remainder of the public hearing to Oct. 1 after learning that the landowner for 29 Sir Winston Churchill Ave. — the old CIBC building downtown — wanted to be included in the redistricting.
The hearing was set out simply to bring the redevelopment plan into conformance with the land use bylaw, as well as create a new district — downtown — that will cover the entire area the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce markets as the Perron District.
But MacKay used the occasion to question the plan as a whole, especially what’s been described as its total capital cost of $137.5 million dollars.
“There are things you could trim out of there that wouldn’t make it so costly,” MacKay said in a later interview. “If the public is going to invest this money, they get that back over time.”
MacKay said he was also concerned about the minimum restrictions on building heights, arguing some landowners can only afford one-storey buildings now. He also doesn’t like the idea of professionals being restricted from setting up shop on street-level spaces.
But cost still remains MacKay’s biggest concern.
“It’s a big risk for the taxpayer to invest all that money when we can’t see many signs of success.”
Mayor Nolan Crouse bristled slightly at MacKay’s attack on the redevelopment plan. Crouse has repeatedly stated that it is a planning document and that the city will not be spending $137.5 million on downtown redevelopment. The city will have some capital costs but others might be borne by private investment.
“There has been, for five years now, this concern that there’s going to be a ‘ruinous expense’ that occurs with DARP,” Crouse said. “It doesn’t mean that you are … spending just for the sake of spending. What I said is what you have is a plan and every time you make a move, it’s in conformance with DARP.”
Crouse pointed out the example of a parkade, which is listed in the redevelopment plan as a future project. It is not going to be the city that builds it necessarily, he said.
“Most parkades in Edmonton aren’t owned by the City of Edmonton,” Crouse said. “They are private.”
There has been progress with the redevelopment plan too, Crouse said, noting the redevelopment of Lions Park, the renovations to the St. Albert Curling Club and even the St. Albert Tennis Club in Mission. All have been in conformance with DARP.
“We’ve got a plan,” Crouse said. “It doesn’t mean the city’s going to spend all that money.”